Thursday, March 19, 2009

I swear to God my kids eat kale




I know nobody wants to believe that but it's true. They also eat spinach and chard. Not chopped up and hidden in something either. My kids eat greens sauteed in olive oil with salt. Sometimes even a little garlic. The easiest, most time honored, most delicious of preparations. How did I make this happen? I forced it on them. Yep, that's right. I made them eat it. And they hated it, at first. They probably hated me too, for a moment. But I gritted my teeth and threatened to run the television over with my car if they didn't eat them. So they ate them.

As they used to say on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show "I knew this job was dangerous when I took it." It's tough being a mother. You have to do all kinds of things you don't want to do. When it comes to kids and meal time and the introduction of new vegetables almost everybody has some battle scars. We care so much. We care that they eat, that they have enough but not too much, that what they eat is mostly healthy and that they associate good, comforting food with their mothers. When your kid looks up from a plate of kale with those huge, tragic eyes and says" Mooooom whyyyyyyy?" it's hard. It hurts a little. I feel guilty. The first few times I had to bite my tongue so I didn't say "never mind, you don't have to eat it."

There are a few cookbooks that will tell you how to be sneaky with vegetables. If that's your style and it works for you, great. I am of the "Because I said so" school. Here are my tips for getting your kids to eat green leafy veggies:

Introduce them for the first time when you are in a really bad mood. You will be so impatient by the time you get dinner on the table you won't tolerate whining and your kids will know you mean business when you say " Just eat it!"

Bribe them with ice cream, cake or some other favorite dessert. Be sure to save a big helping for yourself.
Alternatively, threaten them with the loss of a favorite toy or video game. I make my idle threats as creative as possible. I've mentioned the running the TV over with the car threat. I also enjoy saying I will take a mallet to the nintendo.

Pour yourself a big glass of wine and serve the greens with chicken nuggets. When there is something your kids like on the plate, and it's something small, you know both that they will at least eat something and that there is nothing under which they can hide the greens.

Greens are good and they are really good for you. They are also easy to prepare, at least one kind is available almost all year 'round and they are inexpensive. If you make your kids eat them 4 or 5 times, eventually they will come to enjoy them and as adults they might even choose to eat them. They will also be grateful that when they were children their mother cared enough to make sure they ate healthfully. Right? Right???!!

COOKING KALE AND OTHER GREENS

Many people suggest boiling your greens in water a few minutes ( less for more delicate greens 5 minutes or so for kale) before you saute. You can do this but you don't have to. What you do have to do is wash each leaf individually. Little bugs love to hide in the leaves.

Wash each leaf from a large bunch of green. Separate the leaves from the stems. You can use your knife or your fingers to do this. Chop stems. Roll leaves up like a loose cigar and thinly slice, then cut each roll down the middle.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot but not smoking add the chopped stems ( watch out for splatters as your stems are still a bit wet from their wash) clamp on a lid so the stems steam a bit from the water and cook for a few minutes. If using garlic put it in and cook for 1 minute. Add the leaves and a few pinches of salt. You can put the lid back on for a minute or two to steam these leaves a bit. Cook until wilted the way you like it. Taste it. Some people like them still crunchy, some really soft, it's up to you.

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